Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Dear Michigan, We're Ready to Come Home

Michigan Expats - Commentary - See All Commentary

By Mr Sig

As a Michigan Expat and Alumni of the Mott Park Neighborhood in Flint, MI, I hereby request the state of Michigan open its doors a little wider. I am a typical expat. I grew up in Michigan, went to primary/high school/college in Michigan, travelled "up north" on numerous occasions, point out my hometown on my hand etc. etc.. I also share another trait with expats. Shortly after I graduated from college, I left the state because of a job opportunity. This trend is pretty common, and Michiganders have become accustomed to it. What else would you expect in a state with incredible colleges and a terrible economy? We breed smart people, and watch them leave and never return. How depressing!

I moved out to the Washington DC area, one of the most dreadful and corrupt places in the world, yet filled with jobs. Because Democrats and Republicans tend to agree that the government can never be big enough (in practice at least), there has been an explosion of new government jobs and an equally big explosion of private contractors working for the government. Because of this the recession never came here. Naturally, there are Michigan expats all over the DC area who have left their state to migrate to where the jobs are. Can we really blame these people? Not really. Michigan still seems to have a hard time accepting that the past glory is not going to come back in the same form. This isn't exactly the best way to get people to stay. Neither is grasping for Federal money which is subjected to the whims and fancies of a particular administration and passing fads such as green initiatives which are popular but not profitable. Expats, regardless of political beliefs, tend to realize that this approach to bringing jobs back to Michigan is good at little more than filling pro-Michigan brochures and the website with some basic content. We hear about things every once in a while regarding some new company that strikes a deal with Lansing to open up a plant and create 200 jobs or so. Special tax incentives are thrown around to create these scenarios, but we tend to ignore this because we understand that special incentives shouldn't be necessary. We ask ourselves, why do businesses need to go to Lansing, or work with the MEDC just to get a good deal? How about giving the same great deals to everybody? For whatever reason, businesses still don't want to go to Michigan. But I'll leave that debate aside because I want to talk about me... and hundreds of thousands (millions?) of expats just like me. I have a trait that almost all Michigan expats have.

I want to come home.

I've met TONS of Michigan expats out here in the DC area and every single one of them says the same thing. "Yeah, I moved out here after graduating from 'insert Michigan college here' and I work doing 'X' and I like my job, but eventually I want to move back to Michigan." .....And do what?.... Think about what would happen if this conversation changed to "Yeah, I moved out here after graduating from 'insert Michigan college here' and I work doing 'X' and I like my job, but I'm moving back to Michigan in August because my company opened up an office there. I can't wait! I'll be able to get a house with an actual yard for less than I'm paying for rent out here. I'll be closer to family, and I just can't wait to be back in Michigan. There's just so much more to do there, and life is just so much easier." I hope I'm speaking for a vast majority of Michigan expats when I say that Michigan is the most beautiful state in the country. We tend to realize this after going out to the rest of the country (or world) in the hopes of being impressed only to say something to the tune of "ehh, so what, it's just a waterfall, there are a million of those in Michigan and the water is actually clear." We think of much more than just aesthetics. The house next door to where I lived in Michigan just sold for something around $50,000, but that same house would be nearly $500,000 in my current neighborhood. My grocery bill is $150, but I used to pay $80 in Michigan. I can "gasp" PARK MY CAR in Michigan. I can send my kids to a private elementary school for $2,000 in Michigan. Try $7,000 out here. And the list goes on. Michigan has expats who are smart because they went to Michigan colleges and hardworking because that's what you have to do to get good jobs like we have. We are committed to success and achievement, and we want to see our old stomping grounds as a place where we can do that better than anywhere else.

I hope this is seen as a positive message. Yes, Michigan expats grow weary of seeing their old state cast as an example of high unemployment and endless misery. We know that only the former is true. But that won't last forever, and when Michigan finally gets its act together, we'll come back. We'll stay, and we'll raise our families, and teach them right from wrong, take them to Tiger games and to the Mackinac Bridge. We'll make sure they are intelligent and that they seek out the best opportunities whether they are in Flint or Fiji. Either way, we'll try to convey in them a sense that Michigan is home and that even if their dreams take them around the world they'll come full circle and land back in Michigan. We want to create a generation of Michigan-born heroes, entrepreneurs, and examples of success with values. And we will succeed. Just as our parents did. So, I hope to see all of you current Michiganders sooner rather than later. And to all you expats out there, when the time is right for you, I hope you will consider coming back. Who's first?


  1. yeah!

    Michigan is home and always will be. I'm interning in Toledo this summer, and my apartment is less than 10 miles from the border. I get to drive into Michigan every now and then, and it's great. Yeah, things don't look that much different within a few miles of the border, but it's comforting seeing the "Welcome to Pure Michigan" sign. And I love being able to drive 80 (I mean, 70) on the freeway!

  2. I spent 13 miserable months in Chicago working in the Loop and couldn't wait to come home to Michigan, even though that meant leaving my grown children (UM '94 and MSU '99) and pre-school grandchildren. D.C. can't be any more dreadful or corrupt than Chicago. As soon as I crossed into MI from Indiana all the tension melted away. Just seeing all that green everywhere was a balm to the soul.

    FYI: Flint is the object of efforts similar to those which played a role in resurrecting Asheville, NC. A native of Columbiaville, MI (UM PhD '66) has participated in furthering both these cities' goals, first in Asheville and recently in Flint. If only Michael Moore would get on board.

  3. This is so great, a place for people just like me.. I have been in NYC for 5 years now and when I read this page its like someone is telling my life story! It is a sad thing when I return home to see my old school friends and they are 90% gone.. My generations(children of the 80's and 90's) have fled the state for economic reasons in a mass exidous. Once I can, I'll be back in Flint Michigan, I just hope its not when I am living off a retirement, you know?
    Always an Indian!

  4. Hi Nicholas thanks for commenting. Think of all the property you can buy in Flint, now. No need to settle for a house.. how about an entire city block?

  5. We spent nearly 1/2 million on a townhouse in Virginia in 2005. It's hard for our family in Michigan to understand how we live like sardines and we spent $$$$$ to do so. Yet, you can't really put a price on job security. Hoping for things to turn around in MI so we can enjoy the beautiful fall season and apple orchards there once again, in our own yard!